Hello everyone! In this article, I’m chronicling my recent staycation at Hotel Royal (Newton).
While idly browsing through the Traveloka app, Hotel Royal caught my eye for a number of reasons. For one, it had spacious rooms, with the entry-level superior room boasting 30 square metres. Secondly, it was located in an accessible location (5 minutes from Novena MRT), with plenty of delicious food options around. Thirdly, the hotel even has a pool! And yet, prices were surprisingly affordable, with rooms easily found around $80, though I’ve seen rooms available at $70, and sometimes as low as $60. The only catch is that it’s a rather old hotel, but it had enough going for it that I decided to try it out.
Hotel Royal – Video Review
For those interested in seeing some hands-on footage of the room, do check out my Youtube review of Hotel Royal Newton below:
Hotel Royal – the Brand
Hotel Royal Newton – not to be confused with Hotel Royal @ Queens – first opened its doors in 1979, making it one of the oldest hotels that’s still in operation. However, it did get a facelift in 2016, with most of the rooms fitted with modern televisions and other upgraded amenities.
As its name suggests, Hotel Royal Newton is situated in the heart of the Newton/Novena area. With a whopping 331 rooms, it’s quite a big and proper hotel – certainly a far cry from most of the small, boutique hotels that it competes with in the sub-$80 price segment. Its motto is “Every Room a Home” – let’s see if it lives up to that mission.
Across all the common booking platforms, the price of a weekday room at Hotel Royal averages around $80. I managed to snag some promo codes on the Traveloka app, which brought the price down to a mere $24.60. At that price, it’s a no brainer, especially for a Friday.
Hotel Royal – Check-in
Upon reaching the hotel on a Friday afternoon, I was greeted by a snaking queue of guests waiting to be checked in.
The lobby itself looked big, probably the grandest for a sub-$80 hotel that I’ve been to – it literally has chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. However, the wait to check-in was also the longest that I’ve experienced to date. I waited in line for a whole 45 minutes, and that was on a weekday (albeit a Friday), not even a weekend.
I soon found out that the main reason for the bottleneck was the paltry two check-in counters. If you’re staying on a weekend, be prepared to wait for quite a bit. When it was finally my turn, the receptionist – who clearly looked overwhelmed and flustered – kindly offered me an upgrade to the family room, which I accepted due to its slightly larger size.
Hotel Royal – Family Room
I was first assigned a room on the 7th floor (728).
Unfortunately, the ceiling was leaking, so I requested a change of rooms.
After some delay (more on that later) I was given another Family Room on the 9th floor, room 928. The corridor itself looked right out of the 1990s, and reminded me of the Genting hotels that I used to visit during my childhood.
Remember the hotel’s motto, “Every Room a Home”? The first thought that entered my mind when I entered the room was that it looked/felt like an old HDB apartment, though one that has clearly seen better days.
There’s a big black closet on the left of the entrance. In it, one can find an ironing board, iron, and even a plastic laundry basket that looks like it was bought from the neighbourhood mama shop.
In addition, there’s a safe, as well as several sets of slippers. Interestingly, the hotel doesn’t provide the usual disposable slippers. Instead, several pairs of uncle flip flops can be found, further cementing the HDB-esque aesthetic. The hotel states that this is due to its sustainability efforts, but I would personally have preferred disposable slippers for hygienic purposes.
A minifridge can also be found beside the safe. It’s actually one of the larger ones that I’ve encountered, and I was able to fit a bottle of wine and some slices of cake (bought from the nearby Don Don Donki) easily.
There’s also sachets of generic coffee, tea and sugar available, as well as a kettle.
As part of the hotel’s “GO GREEN” campaign, Hotel Royal doesn’t provide bottles of water. Instead, guests have to get water from shared water dispensers located on every floor. Pro tip: bring a bottle with you when you’re staying.
The main bedroom of the Family Room is quite spacious, featuring a queen-size bed and a single bed. If you’re a family (2 adults and 2 children), or perhaps a group of friends looking to do a stayover, this will do nicely. The bed is soft, and I had a decent night sleep. However, the beds are on wheels, so those booking Hotel Royal to have some romantic activities may find the bed shifting about during vigorous movements.
The sheets were generally clean – better than I had expected for a ~$80/night hotel. However, there were some literal wear and tear, though I didn’t mind it that much for a one night stay.
A bedside lamp flanks each bed, while a table is situated in the middle. There’s also a big painting hanging on the wall, which adds a touch of sophistication to the otherwise no-frills room. However, there were no power ports beside the beds, so those used to charging their mobile devices besides their beds (me included) would be sorely disappointed.
There’s even a little card on the table that states the name of the housekeeper that cleaned the room, as well as a physical feedback form. It’s a nice personal touch.
A long marble table is present, so those looking to take away food would be pleased. More importantly, an array of power ports can be found. There’s also a huge mirror, making it perfect for touching up makeup/checking yourself out before heading out. Furthermore, there’s even an armchair and a small coffee table, so those looking to have a cup of coffee after waking up can do so with morning light filtering through the windows.
Interestingly, there’s a book on the teachings of Buddha beside the Holy Bible.
Muslim guests can request prayer mats and beads from reception, while a sticker indicates the direction of Mecca. I think it’s commendable how Hotel Royal tries to be as inclusive as possible with regard to religion, especially in a time where religious frictions are more prominent than ever before.
As a result of a 2016 refurbishment, rooms are now equipped with 40-inch smart Samsung TV with a variety of cable channels available. The picture quality was pretty good, and one could theoretically connect to Netflix/Youtube, though I couldn’t figure out how to get internet access.
To my surprise, there’s a separate room that was hidden behind a sliding door. The room is actually pretty roomy, with a couch, coffee table, bag rest, workstation, and even a second TV. I’m surprised that Hotel Royal doesn’t publicize this in any of its marketing materials. I can imagine the room being useful for parents that want a momentary break from their children, or perhaps a quiet space to take zoom calls in.
The desk and chair have a distinct old-school Chinese touch to them – they look like they came out of an antique furniture shop in Chinatown. While it isn’t the most comfortable workstation (can’t compare to a Herman Miller, that’s for sure), it gets the job done. There’s even a small table lamp, as well as an analogue phone should you need to make any calls.
The secondary TV is a 32-inch Sharp Aquos. Though it has a number of cable channels, the TV lacks internet connectivity, with its picture quality being inferior to the primary TV outside.
Moving on to the bathroom, a big highlight is the presence of a bathtub. All of Hotel Royal’s rooms (even the entry-level Superior Room) are equipped with a bathtub. The bathtub itself is quite narrow and realistically only fits one, but given the price point one can’t expect much. Although the bathtub wasn’t in the best condition, it was clean enough overall, and I had a good time soaking in it. However, there’s no bidet alongside the toilet bowl, which is a slight pity.
There’s also a standing shower, but its fixed nature limits its functionality. The water pressure was weak too. It reminded me of the showers in Tekong – not the best showering experience by any stretch of the imagination.
Hotel Royal is incredibly generous with its toiletries, with multiple bottles of shower gel, shampoo, soap and even hand sanitiser provided. There’s also the usual shower cap, dental kit, comb and sanitary pad. That being said, the toiletries weren’t particularly remarkable to use – a scenario of quantity over quality.
As compared to the spacious bedroom/entertainment room, the bathroom felt cramped in comparison. Though it had mostly everything I needed, a tad more space (and a handheld showerhead) would have been appreciated.
Hotel Royal – Cleanliness
While I would say that the room was cleaner than I expected given the age and low price point of Hotel Royal Newton, there were still quite a few cleanliness lapses.
First of all, the teacups were heavily stained – I doubt they were cleaned by housekeeping. I avoided using them, and bought my own drinks from Don Don Donki nearby.
The most prominent stains were on the shower curtain – they resembled blood/rust stains. It’s certainly off-putting, but as the shower curtain isn’t exactly a high touch item it wasn’t a deal-breaker.
Stains seem to be a prevalent issue, with further stains being present in the fridge. Once again, the fridge probably isn’t cleaned during turnovers – therefore the cleanliness lapses.
I also found leftover junk (presumably from the previous guest) in the bedside drawer. This goes to show that Hotel Royal’s housekeeping lacks attention to detail – a far cry from Hilton’s level of cleanliness, though it is perhaps unfair to compare Hotel Royal Newton with a 5-star hotel that’s more than twice its price.
Hotel Royal – Amenities
Being a “traditional” hotel, Hotel Royal does have a few amenities.
Firstly, there’s actually a small gym, though it looked poorly equipped with just a singular treadmill, bicycle machine, and some free weights available. It’s better than nothing, but it’s definitely the least impressive hotel gym that I’ve seen.
After doing some exploring on the hotel grounds, I was surprised to find a KTV on the second floor. A quick check online informed me that it’s what’s colloquially known as a siam diu. I did my stay before the KTV COVID cluster broke, so it’s probably closed currently.
Opposite the nightclub is Happy Joy restaurant, which functions as the hotel’s main restaurant. I understand from the staff that pre-COVID, couples used to hold their wedding dinner (喜酒) here.
Of course, no traditional Chinese hotel is complete without a koi pond. I must admit that the koi pond, with the chandelier hanging above it, gave off a sense of old-world splendour that belies the low price point of the hotel.
Last but not least, there’s also a small outdoor pool. I didn’t get the chance to use it as it was raining, but it looked decently sized, with a handful of lounge chairs scattered along its perimeter. However, the pool is only open from 8 am to noon, which means that guests are essentially forced to use the pool on the morning of their check-out. That’s a super tight window, and due to pandemic measures only 5 guests are allowed at the pool area per time slot (1 hour). This translates to a paltry 40 guests per day – Hotel Royal has a total of 331 rooms, with each room having a capacity of at least 3 guests. In other words, it’s going to be a challenge securing a pool slot. If swimming (or taking pool selfies) is a staycation must-do for you, I would encourage looking elsewhere.
Hotel Royal – Service
The service at Hotel Royal was hit-and-miss. When it was finally my turn to check-in, the obviously overworked receptionist remarked to me: “Singapore has so many good hotels, I don’t understand why so many people choose to stay here.” I was taken aback – I’ve never met a hotel staff, much less a receptionist (the first touchpoint for guests) that openly disparages the hotel they work for. His remark was clearly unprofessional, and it left a negative first impression. That being said, the same receptionist also took the initiative to upgrade me from a Deluxe Room to a Family Room as an apology for the lengthy check-in wait. To date, Hotel Royal remains the only hotel that has preemptively offered me a room upgrade.
Alas, the Family Room that I was initially upgraded to had a leaking ceiling, so I promptly called reception to ask for a room change. The lady that answered once again sounded overworked, and relayed hurriedly to me that she would find an alternative room for me and ring me back when it’s ready. Yet, I received no callback, so after an hour of waiting around I decided to pack my things and physically request a change of rooms at the reception counter. The male manager in charge immediately apologised, and assigned me a new Family Room. However, he passed me the room card in a makeshift cardholder that was essentially scrap paper stapled together, something reminiscent of my primary school art class – it certainly didn’t reflect positively on the hotel.
Despite the short opening hours of the swimming pool, I managed to snag an 11 am timeslot. However, I was slated to check out at noon, and thus I called reception to request a later check-out so that I’ll be able to shower back in the room after my swim. Unfortunately, I was told that a late check-out was “impossible”, as the hotel had high occupancy the following day (Saturday). The receptionist suggested I shower at the lobby toilet if I needed to – obviously not an ideal solution. I decided to try my luck the next morning, and requested a late check-out at the reception whilst heading out for breakfast. This time, the receptionist acceded to my request, and extended my check-out timing to 1 pm.
In sum, the service of Hotel Royal was mixed, but one thing’s for sure – the hotel is clearly undermanned.
Conclusion – so Hotel Royal Newton “shiok” or not?
My experience at Hotel Royal Newton was far from perfect – the room wasn’t cleaned thoroughly, the service had room for improvement, and the amenities (pool and gym specifically) were disappointing. But at $80 per night, I wasn’t expecting Hotel Royal Newton to be flawless. In my opinion, the positives of Hotel Royal Newton outweighed the negatives. For one, the hotel probably has the most spacious room (31 sqm) in its price segment. There’s also a bathtub, which is a rarity at this price point. The location is great as well, being a mere 5-minute walk from Novena MRT, with shopping malls like United Square, Velocity and Goldhill Plaza all within walking distance. And while the service wasn’t ideal, I did get a room upgrade and a late check-out, albeit after some hassle. I even found the dated appearance of the hotel oddly charming after some time – it reminded me of Genting hotels I used to visit pre-pandemic, a reminder of a time where we could actually travel freely. In fact, my experience at Hotel Royal Newton prompted me to book another stay at its more upscale sister property, Hotel Royal Queens, where rooms are generally newer and better maintained. Keep an eye out for that review!
Those interested in booking a stay at Hotel Royal Newton can do so on the Traveloka app. Traveloka constantly has some sort of ongoing promotion, with prices so ridiculously low that I’ve personally booked about 90% of my staycations on Traveloka – just see the screenshot of my booking receipt earlier in this article. Just for my readers, you guys can use the promo code “WAHTVLKSRV” (if you’re using SRV) and “WAHTVLK” (non-SRV) for $10 off any hotels or attractions purchase with a minimum spending of $100. My promo codes are stackable with any of Traveloka’s app or bank coupon codes, so be sure to stack them all for the best deal. Here’s a pro tip: keep a lookout for Traveloka’s Weekend Flash Sales which occurs every Friday to Sunday for the lowest prices! However, this post is not sponsored – I paid my own dime to book the hotel.
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wah so Shiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.